A flamboyant Brooklyn pastor who was robbed by masked gunmen during a Sunday service has spent the months after the attack portraying himself as a double victim: of the robbery and of the media attention that has now resurrected fraud claims that had followed him for years.
“Everybody believed that I was a villain,” Pastor Lamor Whitehead remarked during his most recent online session this past Sunday. But now they can see that God has anointed me.
Bishop Whitehead, as he is often referred to, was taken into custody on Monday morning on suspicion of fraud, extortion, and lying to the police.
Manhattan federal prosecutors claim he threatened or falsely promised to enrich victims, such as a retired parishioner, and then retained the money. The investigators alleged he lied in one instance, saying he could utilise his political contacts to gain “millions” from a commercial transaction.
The bishop of Leaders of Tomorrow International Ministries preached a version of Christianity known as the prosperity gospel, which promotes material success as a means to God’s favour. He ran for borough president of Brooklyn and claimed to be acquainted with Mayor Eric Adams, both of whom contributed to his lengthy pursuit of greater legitimacy and notoriety in the borough.
Then, on July 24, masked individuals robbed the bishop and his wife during a ceremony, and the livestream of the theft went viral, further increasing the bishop’s notoriety.
Two suspects were subsequently apprehended, seemingly putting an end to the mystery. However, at that time, the federal inquiry into the bishop’s finances had been ongoing for some months.
Among the charges levelled against him are those of wire fraud, attempted wire fraud, attempted extortion, and making false claims.
According to the accusation, he approached a businessman in the spring of 2022 with hopes of conning him into giving him $500,000 and a share in various real estate deals. The accusation states that in return, he promised to gain favourable measures from the city that would profit both of them millions.
Though no municipal officials or specific activities are named in the indictment, it does raise questions about Bishop Whitehead’s connection with Mr. Adams, who publicly distanced himself from the bishop on Monday.
He made a public statement reading, “I have spent decades upholding the law and expect everyone to respect it.” I have made it my mission in life to help those who have had difficult upbringings. Even though these accusations are disturbing, I will not be making any additional statements until the procedure has reached its conclusion.
The FBI and prosecutors from the U.S. attorney’s public corruption section in Manhattan are conducting the investigation. The federal prosecutors in Brooklyn filed the accusations against the guys suspected of robbing the church.
Prosecutors claim that Bishop Whitehead first coerced the unidentified businessman out of $5,000 from one of his companies. The accusation states that the individual paid the cash at the request of law authorities, suggesting that the probe into the bishop predates the July heist.
A lawsuit filed in Brooklyn in 2021 and an inquiry into the bishop’s riches first disclosed the allegations against the retired church member. In 2020, prosecutors said a lady who had lately visited the chapel was convalescing following surgery. Pauline Anderson, 56, is suing Bishop Whitehead, alleging that she was duped into sending him $90,000 from her retirement fund after he promised to assist her purchase a new house.
However, documents from the courts suggest that Bishop Whitehead’s reputation as the “bling bishop” was established in part on substantial debts he was unable to settle.
This man in New Jersey was fined $68,000 in 2019 after he stopped making payments on a Mercedes and a Range Rover. In the same year, he allegedly sent the construction business that constructed his Paramus, New Jersey house a bad check for $164,000.